Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dzien Dobry, Pierogies

Mmm pierogies. The food of my childhood. These little dumplings filled with a mixture of potato, onion, cheese, meat or sauerkraut and mushroom were always around. Growing up, it was a tradition that every Christmas Eve, we ate a Polish dinner with my Polish and Russian grandparents. The dinner always started with my grandmother coming around with the honey-dipped wafer blessed by the priest. Then the adults would start on the first course of gifilte fish (noticed that I said adults - my sister and I would never touch the grey looking lump of fish covered in viscous material), followed by the main course: the pierogies and potato pancakes.

Until she passed away, my grandmother always brought me pierogies whenever she visited. All of her Polish and Ukrainian friends knew I loved pierogies, so they would make stacks and stacks of them, freeze them and then pass them along to my grandmother for me.

Today, I still love pierogies. With my grandmother and her friends gone, it is difficult to find real pierogies, unless you go to Polish deli. And forget about those supermarket pierogies you find in your freezer section in a blue box - they are absolutely dreadful. Pale, watery, insipid, they are nothing like real pierogies.

So I decided that I would carry on the tradition and attempt to make them myself.

I used a recipe one of the secretary's at work found in the free local newspaper. These are "Raymund's Place" pierogies, a restaurant on Bedford Avenue in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn (where nearly half of the residents are Polish).

The filling and the dough are very easy to make. For the filling, you basically make mashed potatoes, and then add a large egg, salt and pepper, fried onions and farmers cheese. I don't like cheese in my pierogies so I omitted it. I also found the filling to be a little dry, so next time, I will add some milk and butter to the mashed potatoes like I normally would.

The dough is very easy to make as well, as it is only flour, margarine, an egg, water and salt. Putting the two together, however, can be tricky. While the recipe calls for a heaping teaspoon of filling, I had trouble sealing the pierogis with that much filling inside (although that may be due to my lack of pierogi making skills), so I only put in half that much. Making sure the pierogies were sealed was also tricky, as the dough was very sticky. But adding flour to my hands, and sometimes to the pierogi itself, helped.

While this recipe states that it makes about fifty pierogies, I found that it only made about twenty-five to thirty. Since I clearly could not eat this many pierogies in one sitting, I placed the pierogies on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper as I made them, and then put them in the freezer. Once they were frozen, I stored them in freezer bags. (Freezing before storing ensures that the pierogies do not stick together.)

After I finished making the piergoies, and finished cleaning up the flour that I had gotten EVERYWHERE, I dropped a few into boiling water for my dinner, praying that I had sealed them properly. And success! They stayed sealed! Disaster averted!

I served the pierogies with butter and sour cream, and they were delicious. Just like my grandma('s friends) used to make.

Raymund's Place Pierogies


4 1/2 cups flour
6 tbsps. margarine
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt

Potato and Cheese Filling:
2 lbs. Idaho potatoes
1 lb. farmer's cheese
1 large onion
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or margarine for frying

1 8 oz. container sour cream
1/2 lb. bacon


The Dough:
Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in softened margarine, egg, water and salt. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead mixture until dough is sticky. If necessary, sprinkle on additional flour or a few drops of water. Let dough sit for 30 minutes.

The Filling:
Peel potatoes and cut into small pieces. Put the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook 20 minutes or until soft.

While potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion and fry in butter until golden brown. Set aside about 1/5 of an onion for garnish.

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble into bits and reserve for garnish.

Once potatoes have cooked, mash them until soft. Add fried onions, farmer's cheese, egg, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Putting the Filling and Dough Together:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Sprinkle counter surface and rolling pin liberally with flour to prevent dough from sticking. Take a portion of the dough (amount will depend on how big your working surface is) and roll until it is about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut circles in the dough, using the top of a standard-size drinking glass.

Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each circle. Fold each circle around the filling and pinch in the center. Then pinch around each side to close, creating a half-moon shape. Make sure to throughly seal each pierogi.

Once all the pierogies are made, drop in boiling water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. (Depending on the size of your pot, you can cook 20-25 at one time.) The pierogies are done when they float to the top, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, fried onions and fried bacon bits.

Raymund's Place
124 Bedford Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211

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